For as long as there have been newspapers, magazines, and other media distributed for mass consumption, sensationalism has been a perennial and stubborn obstacle in the pursuit of honest journalism and open discourse. For unscrupulous newspeople, tabloids, and a newly minted host of clickbait websites and celebrity blogs, it’s become a living. For unwary readers, it’s become a silent toxin that poisons opinions and erodes rational argument into dogma.
Many of the articles in this March issue of AMP deal with the topic of sensationalism in one way or another. What better time than now, when the rate at which we consume culture and information has accelerated far beyond the wildest dreams of our parents’ generation?
There’s the issue of gun control, particularly the right of students to carry firearms on campus. Some see this as a simple matter of liberty and security, while others see the ingredients for yet another Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech massacre. It’s difficult to even confront this issue without indulging the knee-jerk rhetoric of opportunistic politician.
The late Chris Kyle, the “American Sniper,” has also been the recent subject of a major film. Can a movie about the deadliest sniper in American history really present its subject in an unvarnished and genuine way, especially in the wake of his murder? Movies like these raise many questions about the ideological responsibilities that filmmakers have when portraying morally ambiguous subjects like war.
It’s worth considering that there’s an agenda behind every story. The danger of sensationalism arises when the media engines that disseminate information try to hide their own agendas and biases behind a mask of neutrality. the beauty of op-ed writing is that it celebrates the opinion-fueled nature of these stories instead of hiding behind the illusion of objectivity.
Taking ownership of our opinions is how we turn dogma into discourse, and propaganda into dialogue. If we refuse to take a stand, then we have nowhere else to go. In a society where media and authority are taking every opportunity to tell us what to think, i’s imperative that we learn to think for ourselves and speak our minds clearly. No one else can do it for us.